§ Dr. Blackburn
asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether decisions have been reached on the skillcentre closures proposed in the Skillcentre Training Agency's business plan set out in MSC 84/66; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Tom King
On 21 February I informed the House in an oral statement that I had asked the Manpower Services Commission to implement the agency's proposals as set out in its business plan. I asked the chairman to make quite sure in doing so that when any closures were involved they should not take place until satisfactory alternative provisions had been identified. I also asked for the fullest consultation to take place with the staff and trade unions, with particular regard to negotiating new working practices designed to help the overall efficiency of the network and avoiding compulsory redundancies wherever possible.124W
I made it clear that the proposals for the reorganisation of the skillcentres made sense as a necessary step in improving the cost-effectiveness of training programmes, thus enabling substantial expansion in training opportunities, for unemployed as well as employed people, throughout the country.
The chairman of the Manpower Services Commission wrote today to me and to my right hon. Friends; the Secretaries of State for Scotland and for Wales to say that he has completed his examination of alternative provision in areas where skillcentre closures were proposed taking account of representations made by hon. Members, local authorities and others. He is satisfied that satisfactory alternative provision exists in all areas. He has also fully re-appraised the business prospects of each centre, including any local offers of support, new business and changes in costs. As a result he has decided, in consultation with my right hon. Friends and myself, to authorise the chief executive of the skillcentre training agency to implement the business plan except for Twickenham skillcentre and the Southampton skillcentre annex where a financial case exists for their retention.